Cops save councillors, shopkeepers

190312. Service delivery protest where the residents of Ratanda Township bolcked the R549 road to the township and burning tyres. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

190312. Service delivery protest where the residents of Ratanda Township bolcked the R549 road to the township and burning tyres. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Mar 20, 2012


A municipal building, councillors’ homes, a primary school and foreigners’ shops were set alight on Monday during a violent service delivery protest in Ratanda outside Heidelberg.

The residents looted the municipal buildings and the shops, and stole computers, groceries and anything else they could get their hands on.

Police had to intervene to save the lives of the councillors and shopkeepers, and their families.

The rampage was sparked by the fact that residents have been getting exorbitant bills and the Lesedi municipality wants them to pay half of the outstanding amounts before services can be reconnected.

It went ahead and discontinued the electricity service on Saturday.

Lesedi municipality mayor Lerato Maloka did not turn up for a meeting with protesting residents on Monday, and they went berserk.

They set fire to the homes of two councillors, Doctor Mkhwanazi and Jacob Mokoena.

Later in the day they broke into the municipal building and helped themselves to computers and other electrical items.

They set the building on fire after they could not open the safe.

The protesters proceeded to the homes of two other councillors, Speaker Simon Moremi and Juda Mbhele, and stoned the houses, causing extensive damage to property and furniture.

Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Faith Mazibuko said police officers had simply watched.

Mazibuko wanted to know why the police had not used a “little bit of force” against what she termed hooligan elements.

“There is a lot of a tsotsi element in this protest. I saw people trying to steal a municipality’s safe. These are criminals.”

Tension ran high between residents and the police after officers prevented them from marching to the mayoral offices in Heidelberg.

Residents reacted by throwing rocks and barricading roads with an assortments of objects, including gas bottles that they set alight. Police responded by firing water cannons, teargas and rubber bullets.

Frustrated residents then turned on foreigners from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ethiopia, who fled for their lives.

As the sun began to set, the fugitive foreigners clustered in anxious groups, waiting for police escorts to take them back to their shops.

Police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse hundreds who were looting a shop. The residents laughed and ran, tossing armloads of goods over walls and into gardens as they scattered.

At the White Discount Supermarket, Pakistani shopkeepers dashed back and forth, filling bakkies with their stock.

“People say the foreigners don’t pay for electricity,” said one of a group of residents sitting at a street corner, watching the scene.

“But we love them. They’re our friends.”

“Don’t go, Ali,” cried a woman. “Where will I get my groceries at the end of the month?”

But the shopkeepers didn’t listen. And as they raced off, residents on the street corner were reaching into the back of the bakkies and pulling out oil, mealie meal, chips and juice.

The mayor and protest leaders were meeting late on Monday night. - The Star

Related Topics: